Literary Critics


A couple of days ago a good friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about the Nobel Literature Prize committee and J.R.R Tolkien.

What it amounted to was that according to the committee’s lofty ideals, Tolkien was a nonstarter for consideration by them for the literature prize that year, after his friend and colleague C.S Lewis nominated him. Since the article was posted it has drawn a lot of comments for or against Tolkien. I am one of the millions who firmly believe that J.R.R is one of the very best storytellers to come out of the twentieth century.

Bernard Shaw

Granted his use of his and my mother tongue is very Edwardian and somewhat longwinded, but is that a bad thing? I think not. After all, each generation writes differently from those gone before, and so the way a story is written is purely down to the version of the language current for them at the time. In a hundred years from now, many future readers will puzzle of J.K Rowling’s use of the language, but I bet they will love her storytelling.

To illustrate my point, one of my favourite books was written during the Edwardian era – Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers. When I first attempted to read it, I found it really tough while struggling with his version of the English language. But once I got into it, Childers drew me in totally. Would ‘Riddle’ be considered worthy from the point of view of literary critics? Who cares, I love it, and that is all that really matters in the great scheme of things. Like J.R.R, Erskine got my attention by his storytelling.

What is the problem with critics and most of the literary establishment?  By that, I mean the top publishers and the more academically minded, those who still believe that no work was written by anyone other than them, using their own particular way of writing in the English language, or one of their disciples is truly worthy. Why do they seem to think that they and they alone, know what the reading public will like?

Who actually gives a damn about a bunch of literary snobs like them – certainly not the average reader? Just ask the millions of Tolkien lovers across the world. If J.R.R is rubbish, then I say give me more, please. Maybe those who run the big six publishing houses and the plethora of literary critics should stop blathering and get writing themselves. If they took up my challenge, would their work be read? Who knows – nothing is certain.

  1. Avatar of Alan Place
    Alan Place says

    I agree, Jack. Especially as I had recommended to me a book about Language and how to write, that is nearly a hundred years old. Lots of people like Hemmingway, yet the time I tried to read his work, it was so difficult to get into (for me), I ended up having a headache. I have read C.S. Forrester/H.E.Bates/ Solzhenitsen. Only Hemmingway did I find I could not read. That is not saying, he is not good, just that I could not read him.
    When you go back to old books and authors Poe is still read and loved as much as JK Rowling.

  2. Avatar of Andrew J. Sacks
    Andrew J. Sacks says

    Jack, fine article and good points made. Many do not know that Tolkien was a noted scholar who studied and taught Medieval literature, was steeped in that period and its beliefs, and only then hit upon the notion of creating a series of modern mythological tales of adventure as, really, a sort of homage to his deep love of such delicious fantasy.

  3. Avatar of Jack Eason
    Jack Eason says

    Alan, of all Solzhenitsyn’s books, my favourite by far is One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich. It is extremely short, but exceptionally written.

    Andrew, while over my lifetime I have read many fine works by some of the best writers, J.R.R stands head and shoulders above them all. Someone who comes a close second for me, is Arthur C Clark.

    Thank you both for your comments. 🙂

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